Berkeley's First Sunday Street

October 23, 2012 Editor's Note: Sunday Streets, Ciclavia, CiLAvia, Oaklavia. Cities all over the world are embracing the concept of open street events, where streets are closed to cars and opened to walking, biking, and imagination. The City of Berkeley welcomed its first Sunday Street event on October 14, and crowd estimates range from 30,000 to 40,000, or over a quarter of the City's population.

Berkeley's Sunday Street was quintessentially Berkeley - with slow food, silent dance, giant chess, a parklet, and thousands of families. Sarah Fine captured the excitement, and shares it below.

From Sarah Fine:

I was so excited to see Sunday Streets come to Berkeley, and I spent the first hour of it riding my bicycle up and down Shattuck on the wrong side of the street (it felt great). Later on, it was too crowded to really ride around but in slowing down, I saw a lot of charming things (including some objects that are permanent fixtures of Berkeley that I'd just never noticed before, like the giant tuning fork!) It's tremendous how reorienting yourself on a street and not looking out for vehicular traffic can really let you see a place with fresh eyes.

Of the Sunday Streets innovations, I think I was most inspired by the many uses of the diagonal parking bays along the southern end of Shattuck between Haste and Center. Although the latest Downtown Berkeley Plan calls for a different modification of those parking bays,  Sunday Streets' repurposing offered another vision of what could be done with the spaces--and all in the name of fun, which nothing related to parking can ever lay claim to. One use (shown) was dodgeball, but there was also a bicycle rodeo, a climbing wall, a tiny disc golf course, a Balkan dancing demonstration, a makeshift stand-up comedy stage outside Pegasus Books, three somber kids playing violins, and probably a million other wonderful things I didn't happen to see.

The green bike boxes on Hearst were a demonstration produced by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, painted with spray chalk. And Moe's Books sponsored the mobile reading room, which may be even better use of a travel lane than a bike lane.

I actually didn't catch who sponsored the yoga, break dancing demonstration with tiny b-boys, or the miniature instrument area for kids. (Someone with an adult-sized piano was leading everyone singing Old McDonald when I took that photo, and I assume he was a music teacher of some kind.) If anyone can identify the groups or individuals organizing these events,  I'd love to know.

Sarah Fine is a second year masters student in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the University of California, Berkeley.